Abundant Bounty

3 07 2009

Lots of goodies coming from the garden and the Universe over the past couple of weeks.

The tomatoes are still on full bore. I’ve been picking an average of ten to fifteen per day.

Cherry-Tomatoes

Here are a couple of harvests. This is not nearly everything I gathered over the past two weeks, just two of the bigger days. I collected the muskmelons because the vine was mostly dead. They could have ripened a few more days, but they were OK. The middle melon is the one I did not protect with the pantyhose. In retrospect I don’t see the value of doing this. The skin was thin and split on the protected melons, and the netting did not develop normally.

Sunday's-Harvest

Friday's-Harvest

I made salsa for the first time. I didn’t realize how large the green onions were getting until I cut this one! These were store onions that I just stuck in the ground. They grow back each time I cut them. I also picked a puny red pepper and a smallish Poblano. The salsa is still a work in progress.

Onion Peppers

The past week has been very active for the eggplant. It grew…

Eggplant

and grew…

Eggplant2

and grew! Since I’m not familiar with what these are supposed to look like, I am not sure when to pick it. I’m thinking I’ll pick it this weekend, since the consequences of waiting too long seem to outweigh the risk of picking too soon.

Eggplant-big

Here is Super Eggplant’s sidekick. I don’t know why it looks so different, but I think a bug got ahold of it.

Eggplantnew

The second batch of bananas is looking good. First batch is also coming along nicely, too. They sure are taking a long time, though.

Bananas2

This is the string lily AJ brought back from the river. We keep it in a container under the AC condensation drip. It is going great, and bloomed this week.

String-Lily

The blooms were short-lived, but very delicate and pretty. I can’t say my husband doesn’t bring me flowers! The kind he brings are much more interesting and thoughtful than those bought in a store.

String-Lily-Bloomed

Not only that, but he can smoke a mean pork tenderloin! Yum!

AJ-Cuts-Pork-Tenderloin

Yesterday was a special treat. We stopped in at John Roger’s to pick up some bamboo. John is a local horticultural guru and, as I’ve said before, one of the most knowledgeable and unassuming guys you could ever hope to meet.

Bamboo-John

Even though he was on his way to run errands he took the time to give us another tour of his property to show us some of the things he has growing, as well as some nice mounds of mulch and compost. Had you told me, a year ago, that I’d get a thrill from compost I would have looked at you askance!

Nor did I even know of heirloom and heritage varieties, about which I am now quite excited. John Rogers is a true steward of the land and cultivator of native and unique plant varieties.

As we headed to the compost heap we stopped to admire his massive watermelon and squash vines. He promptly plucked this little jewel and bequeathed it upon me. What’s the big deal? This is a renowned, historic gem of the squash persuasion: A Seminole Pumpkin Squash (Cucurbita moschata), to be exact.

At the recent Funky Chicken Farm seed swap, John Rogers encouraged me to get some Seminole Pumpkin Squash seeds. I had never heard of this variety, but have since learned that it is a true heirloom, indeed developed by the Seminole Indians. They planted these hardy, natives at the base of palm trees, and allowed the vines to grow up the trunk and fronds. Considering how robust the plants seem to be, I imagine that this was quite a sight! Wish I had brought my camera to John’s place!

Seminole-Pumpkin-Squash

I cooked the squash in the smoker, using my father’s recipe for acorn squash: A chunk of butter, a sprinkling of brown (raw) sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. It looked beautiful, and tasted much like sweet potatoes. AJ, didn’t take to it, since he is not much for sweet food. Strange for the guy who can devour ice cream and candy bars like they are going out of style, and who is currently drinking a Pina Colada! Oh well.

I’ve got some seeds and will be planting Seminole Pumpkin Squash this weekend.

Here they are in the smoker, which was still hot from the pork tenderloin.

Pump-Squash-Smoked

The original reason for going to John Roger’s (AKA Bamboo John) was to pick up a cutting of the lovely striped bamboo (Bambusa Vulgaris), which I managed to kill last time. I think we will get it right this go round , and hope to have a stand going soon. Thanks again, John!

Bambusa-Vulgaris

So far, a good two weeks. I will try to get the wrap-up posted on Sunday evening.

Have a Happy 4th of July!





The Mystery Guest Revealed

3 07 2009

Remember the Mystery Guest? Well, no one offered an ID. Guess y’all have better things to do, LOL.

Let’s have a review.

The Mystery Guest has already grown up and returned to start her new family in the Oasis.

Here is an egg which she deposited on the Italian Parsley.

Egg-Leaf

In this shot a baby caterpillar investigates an older egg (which is about to hatch).

Egg-Cat

Here is one of a slightly different color.

Small-Caterp

They grow up fast. These two are likely only a few days apart in age.

2Catperps

Out with the old skin, in with the new and improved striped skin!

New-Stripes

Here’s one with the next size up striped suit.

Little-Stripey

This is our Mystery Guest right before she went on walkabout to search for a place to pupate.

Mystery-Guest2

I moved her to a potted plant on the steps, where she ate a little bit more and then built her silk harness.

MysteryGuestHammock

The next morning I found that she had made a green chrysalis. They make both green and brown. I first thought it had to do with camouflage, but I have seen both colors on the same plant. Perhaps the color is pre-programmed, allowing a 50% chance that they will end up on a matching colored stick.

I checked my calendar and planned to keep an eye out for her emergence in two weeks.

MysteryChrysalis

Six days later I went outside to check something, and was surprised to see that she had wasted no time in her transformation. I rushed to grab my camera, and manged to fire off a few shots as she dried her wings.

Papilio-Polynexes-emergin

Within moments (and probably to get away from me), she opened her wings and fluttered off.

Papilio-Polynexes

This lovely gal posed for me before flitting away to find food and a mate. She has returned to the garden, every day, to deposit her eggs on all of the host plants. When I pick my herbs I must be on the lookout for the little visitors, and sometimes have to sacrifice a few unhatched eggs, in order to harvest for the kitchen.

Here she is today. The wind has taken its toll on her wings, but it doesn’t seem to deter from her mission of laying eggs. She was tired, and seemed to pose for over a minute as she rested on the dill plant; then she was off to deposit more mini-pearls of the next generation.

Mama-Returns

You have just witnessed the life cycle of Papilio polyxenes Fabricus, 1775, otherwise known as the Eastern Black Swallowtail.

Those colorful caterpillars (once they change from mimicking bird poop), are also known as “Dillworms, Celeryworms, Carrotworms or Parsleyworms”. I think the names adequately explain their diet. Although they seem garish and conspicuous, the caterpillars are actually quite well disguised when they are on their host plants (sort of like zebras on the grassy plains).

The adults do little more than consume nectar, mate and deposit their eggs; all of which they are welcome to do in the bounty of my little garden.





Week in review – A reprieve from the rain

31 05 2009

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Everything is green. The yard is packed with baby grass, and the garden is growing fast.

If you read Things are a bit Spotty, you may recall that I was having a fungal issue with the tomatoes. I’m calling it Grey Leaf Spot until someone tells me otherwise. Last year this stuff completely ravaged my tomato plant to the point that I had very little yield.

Last week I treated the plant with Atomic Grow™ and trimmed off the terminal branches. I left a few of the branches with the initial stages of yellowing to see what would happen. One week later, the leaves are virtually unchanged and it appears that the fungal invasion has been stopped in its tracks. The new growth is green and healthy. I’m not going to go overboard with excitement, but things look promising!

Leaf-Spot-Halted

I know I said I would make my next Atomic Grow™ application yesterday. I reserve the right to change my mind, and so I have declared Sundays to be “Atomic Sunday”. I will make the application this afternoon and post some quick photos. There are some new guests in the garden (one for which I have planted a specific herb), and I will not be spraying that plant because I want to encourage the guests. Sorry for the vagueness, but I think I’ll let you watch them progress and see who can guess what they are. Their momma dropped them off on Friday, so stay tuned for some baby pictures this afternoon.

Here is the Oasis this weekend. Doesn’t everything look happy?

Oasis

A closer shot of some of the herbs. This is my first year with celery. I’m learning about self-blanching and how celery needs to be grouped together. I had thinned out the clump and moved some plants to outside areas. They are easily identified because they turned pale yellow. The central clump is still green. I guess we will wait and watch to see how they turn out.

Herbs

The cherry tomato plant has officially reached tree status in my book. It is upwards of 5′ tall and growing by leaps and bounds. If it didn’t make those yummy tomatoes I’d think it were a weed.

Cherry-Tomato-Tree

Time for a salad.

Cherry-Tomatoes

The succulent garden is doing great. Notice that green grass in front?

Succulents

Over the course of the week our banana flower has opened up and exposed the first hand of six bananas.

AJ explained to me that this is only the beginning. Each layer of the pod will open up in succession and reveal another hand. He estimates five or six more to come. This has been the highlight of my week.

Banana-Flower-Preopen

Banana-Flower-Opening

Banana-Flower-Opening-more

The poblano peppers got off to a rocky start, but now they are loaded with babies.

Baby-Poblano

Can I have more than one highlight? The Marketmore 76 cucumber has exploded in size.

Marketmore 76 Cucumber

And I found three new babies on a single branch. I’ve got to keep my eye out for those pickleworms. They are not allowed to eat our cucumbers.

Baby-Cucumbers

The muskmelon took a beating from the winds this week. The older leaves are fairly shredded, but there is so much new growth that it hardly matters. This plant is loaded with babies.

Muskmelon Vine

Dead frog walking. Yes, here is another Cuban Tree Frog. This one has set up housekeeping inside one of the bamboo stakes. The stake has filled with water, thus forcing froggie to poke out of the top in the daylight. These are nocturnal frogs, so you can see its determination to stay home. I was able to get extremely close and the frog didn’t budge. I’m still building the fortitude to round up and kill these invasives. I even bought some Benzocaine to put them gently to sleep before popping them into the freezer. AJ is promoting the idea of just stomping on them. Is he mean or what? Actually, it would probably be the most humane way. I just don’t think I could do it.

For now I am building a collection of photographs for their memorial. Eat up little froggie; your days are numbered!

Cuban Tree Frog in Bamboo

Mr. Fix It is still at it. This week the rains exposed another problem with the car: leaking tail lights, which allowed water to get into the trunk. AJ took them apart and found that they were both crazed and that one was cracked in various places. Here he is trying to salvage the blasted thing until we can afford a replacement part. Anybody want to buy a 1985 Mercedes 300D? 😉

Tail-light-repair

I’ll leave you with “Gravel Cat”, Jorgi.

Gravel-Cat

Check back later for a harvest update and some shots of the baby guests.





Good food and Good Company

12 04 2009

I know I said I wouldn’t post today, but I can’t seem to help it.

I made Mulberry Vinaigrette with the fresh mulberries from Bamboo John.

Mulberries

Here’s the recipe I came up with:

Fresh Mulberry Vinaigrette

  • Balsamic Vinegar: 1/2 Cup
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: 1/2 Cup
  • Olive Oil: 3/4 Cup
  • Canola Oil 1/4 Cup
  • Fresh Mulberries: 2 Cups
  • Maple Syrup: One glug (to taste)
  • Powdered Mustard: 1Tbsp.
  • Sea Salt: 1 good grind.
  • Fresh Garden Herbs: 1 Sprig each of Basil, Sage, Oregano, Thyme and Dill

Combine all ingredients in blender and mix.  Viola’, Mulberry Vinaigrette!

Ingredients

Herbs

Ingredients in. Ready to blend.

Pre-Blended

Blended-vinaigrette

Finished Product. It turned out excellent!

Mulberry-Vinaigrette

AJ’s Redneck Smoked Chicken

Rub a whole roasting chicken with seasoning. AJ uses Lawry’s® Perfect Blend Seasoned Rub for Pork (I know…pork. But trust me, it’s good). Sounds normal, right? So why is it called “Redneck Smoked Chicken”? Notice the cans of Natural Light…

Chix-rubbed

Whoa! What is he doing to that chicken?! That’s not natural!

On-Beer

Stuffed with open cans of beer the chickens are sitting upright ready for the smoker. Slightly unsettling, if you ask me.

Chix

In it goes.

Chix-in

Chix-in-Smoker

Charcoal in the bottom of the smoker provides the heat and wood chips soaked in beer create the smoke. The more beer the better when you’re cooking redneck style. It goes without saying that the cook should also be primed. Close the smoker door and wait for the internal temperature to get to 165° and rising.

Finished product. Tender and juicy. Yum!

Finished-Chix

It was cool and gorgeous outside.  Our neighbor, Capt’n Kim Ferrell joined us for dinner. We enjoyed a wonderful meal of smoked chicken, black beans and rice and salad supplemented with fresh garden greens. Can’t wait until the entire salad comes from the garden.

Warm and personable, Capt’n Kim is always a welcome guest. He is a treasure hunter with leases on the local shipwrecks, as well as a talented jeweler who mounts shipwreck coins in beautiful gold settings. Kim deserves a post of his own and has promised to send me some information and photos about his adventures so that I may do this. I will also share a photograph of the gorgeous pendant he gave us for Christmas.

Captain Kim Ferrell

Capt.-Kim

Capt-Kim2

Well, that’s it for now. The soil for Oasis2 is now slated for Tuesday. See you then.





Bamboo, Bamboo and more Bamboo!

10 04 2009

We got home with the bamboo on Wednesday and crashed. Thursday, after work we set up a processing center in the driveway. Bamboo is messy, branchy, leafy and sharp! I processed my pile of thin bamboo and AJ processed the big stuff. Sawzall, branch cutters and a machete were involved.

Processing

AJ deals with the especially difficult pieces.

Finishing-up

I pose with the sawzall.

Cutting

Today, AJ finished processing the big stuff, and put it under the RV to cure. Once it has dried for a couple of weeks we will treat it and use it in the new fence.

Bamboo-Curing

Here is my small stuff. It looks like a lot, but I bet Oasis2 takes the all of it.

Finished-Thin-Bamboo

This shot of Oasis2 should explain why I’m chomping at the bit to get the trellis built and the beans planted. The chaos in the background is Jack’s lot. He’s a fascinating and nice old guy; but his sense of aesthetics is vastly different than ours. This afternoon, Jack came around and sat on his trailer to talk to me while I worked. He said that he loved our gravel and couldn’t get over how great it looks. He said the bamboo brought back memories of WWII. They used it to build traps and cages for the Japanese. While we were talking the park manager came by with a notice about the Health Department citations. Jack has been ordered to clean up his lot, cover the boat with a tarp and get tags on his vehicles. I’ve been in this park too long to expect much of a change. There is only so much you can do with hoarders like Jack. I am very fond of the guy, but I do not enjoy looking at his junk. I keep my fingers crossed that the pole beans, lima beans and cucumbers fill in the trellis and obscure the view.

Oasis2-in-works

Here is the experimental stage of the trellis. I dug holes up to my elbows and buried five poles. The horizontal bamboo wasn’t long enough to span the length, so I changed plans and went for a diagonal look with three poles.

Trellis-in-process

It’s still a little crooked because I ran out of twine to tie it together. I will straighten it out a bit, and AJ said he would trim the ends for me.  I’m not very concerned since it is quite sturdy and I don’t plan to see much of it in a month or two. It’s not large enough to hide the entire mess, but I hope it helps.

Trellis-done

Here is a photo that AJ took when I wasn’t looking. I’m cutting the long pieces into small fascia, which I will pound into the ground around the raised beds.

Cutting-Fascia

Here’s The Oasis. Take a good look at this and try to take your mind off of the previous image.

Oasis041009

The ebay auctions bombed. I didn’t make enough to buy the topsoil. We planned to get it with our pay, but we did not get paid today; so I don’t know what will happen. The beans are sending out very long tendrils and really need to get into the ground. I may cash in my change jar and buy a couple of bags of soil just to get the beans planted.

Tomorrow is another day of labor. We are aching, exhausted and all scratched up.  See you on the flip side.





Week in Review – The Thriving Landscape

6 04 2009

It’s been a nonstop busy week. AJ’s mother, Karen and her beau, Mark stayed with us last weekend and through Tuesday morning. We worked hard the rest of the week and on Friday afternoon got news that Allan Sr. (AJ’s dad) was on his way. Exhausted and with a marginally functioning brain, I fear that I was a terrible hostess. A good night’s sleep, some great coffee and a hearty breakfast found me in better spirits by Saturday morning.  The remainder of the weekend was filled with more abundance and goodness on behalf of Allan Sr. It seems to be a trend that our quality of life drastically improves on a weekly basis. I will share all of this in my very next post, but first I want to give a progress report on the flora in our mini-Eden.

Tillandsia Fasciculata

This beautiful native airplant was rescued by AJ and given a new home in the dead hickory tree which we now call “The Mushroom Tree”, due to its proliferation of shelf mushrooms. The native bromeliad has put out four flower stalks since we adopted it; two former stalks still drying and releasing seeds as a new one emerges.

Tillandsia fasciculata

New flower stalk

Tillandsia fasciculata flower stalk

Old Seed Heads

Tillandsia fasciculata Seed Pods

Seeds

Tillandsia fasciculata Seeds

Although these native bromeliads are difficult to grow from seed, they do put off numerous pups. Today I made “Tillandsia Crabs” by placing some pups from another plant into some shells I have been holding onto for years.

Tillandsia Crabs

Tillandsia Crab

The Edible Landscape

This is a cactus I salvaged from a debris heap. I knew it when it was a massive and mature cactus so large that were it to fall on a person it would cause serious injury if not death. The cactus produces large, sweet fruit; which I eagerly anticipate. For now I have it in a pot with purslane and pink purslane at its base. Purslane is an edible weed, rich in omega 3 fatty acids. I made a delicious salad for dinner using some collected from my garden. Good stuff!

Purslane & Moss Rose

Oasis2 still awaits soil. This is my project for next weekend. The pole beans, lima beans, watermelon and musk melon are all from heirloom, open pollinated seeds from victoryseeds.com. A promisingly prolific tomato plant is from my friend Robert.  All await their new homes in the future raised bed. Stay tuned for the details of this project.

Oasis2

Victory Seed Company

I can’t say enough good things about Victory Seed Company, other than I wish they would have warned me about how prolific their seeds are! Assuming that not all would germinate, I planted too many, too close together. Everything I have planted is growing fast. I did a mini-harvest of spinach, lettuce and a few other herbs to add to our dinner salad. I don’t think we will have to wait longer than a week or two to really begin eating from this garden.

Baby Bibb Lettuce from Victoryseeds.com

Baby Bibb Lettuce

Baby Sage from Victoryseeds.com

Baby Sage

Baby Spinach from Victoryseeds.com

Baby Spinach

Baby Carrots from Victoryseeds.com

Baby Carrots

Baby Pablano Peppers from Victoryseeds.com

Baby Pablano Peppers

The Flea Market Tomato Plant

This tomato plant has at least 20 tomatoes and counting. Can’t wait to see how they taste!

Tomatoes

Gift From the Universe

Last but not least, behold The Dumpster Chair. I have been looking for a small chair or bench from which to reflect upon my garden. Friday I took the trash out and discovered this little treasure in the dumpster. A nice coat of white paint should restore it to its former glory. Another project for another day. For now, it is the perfect garden seat.

Free-Chair





The “Bubba Effect” & Heirloom Seeds

23 02 2009

THE BUBBA EFFECT

FOX and Glenn Beck are like that couple you always knew belonged together. Perhaps FOX was your friend and Glenn Beck was your partner’s friend. The two of you would get together and conspire to invite them to the same parties in the hopes that they would recognize that they were soul mates. When he switched from the propaganda machine by the name of CNN to the one called FOX it took me a moment to realize what had happened because I always imagined him at FOX. Now he is home and cranking up the garbage to new heights.

I have a work site where conservative talk radio is cranking 24 hours per day. One morning I got to listen to Glenn Beck as he ranted about the financial collapse and how we should all prepare before it’s too late. The only time I’ve been able to tolerate this clown is when he interviews my hero Dr. Ron Paul. You’ve got to give Glenn Beck credit. He had the sense to recognize the current of Libertarianism pulsing through the generation set to inherit this financial disaster. When all other talking heads set about to marginalize Dr. Paul by outright mocking, Glenn Beck stuck his paddle into the current and used it to propel his vessel into new territory. Now like a shepherd who has caught a few strays Glenn Beck is using Ron Paul’s message like a staff to hook them back into the herd. I must admit, I was almost hooked. I actually started to think that Glenn Beck may have caught the liberty bug and was truly interested in speaking out against the oppressors. This didn’t sit well with my understanding of the mind control mechanism that is the media, and as my motto is “Question Everything” I began to wonder how far Glenn Beck was really going to take this course.

In this YouTube video clip of the Glenn Beck Show (posted by jbranstetter04), Army Command Sergeant Major Tim Strong describes how “The Bubba Effect” will come into play when the Collapse is in full swing. When I first watched the clip I was surprised to see that the military is willing to show the card that they are concerned about us “Bubbas”. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. This is just one more of the divisive tactics used to keep us all suspicious and fearful of each other.

I don’t know how this will all play out, but I do know a lot of people who have willingly dug their heads into the sand.  As unemployment, homelessness and hunger seep in with the tide the desensitized masses still jabber on about American Idol and their kids’ athletic events. If every person spent every free moment cultivating their survival plans they might have a chance. As is stands I envision a huge lot of ugliness, the likes of which this country has never seen.

HEIRLOOM SEEDS

I almost forgot to mention: I ordered a bunch of goodies from The Victory Seed Company.

I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about the arrival of a package. I hope it comes soon, and I hope I get everything I ordered.

3360011 – Spinach, Bloomsdale Longstanding – 4 gm. Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3030391 – Bean, Fordhook 242 Bush Lima – 1 oz. Sampler    @  2.05 =  2.05

[1]   3050041 – Broccoli, Atlantic – 0.5 gm. Sampler    @  1.85 =  1.85

[1]   4000261 – Parsley, Italian – 2 grams    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3240011 – Lettuce, Buttercrunch – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.85 =  1.85

[1]   3240041 – Lettuce, Oak Leaf – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.85 =  1.85

[1]   3240171 – Lettuce, Winter Density – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.85 =  1.85

[1]   3090071 – Carrot, Nantes Scarlet – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.65 =  1.65

[1]   3310131 – Pepper, Ancho (Poblano) Hot – 0.25 gm. Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3160051 – Cucumber, Marketmore 76 – 1 gram Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3110021 – Celery, Golden Self-Blanching – 0.25 gm. Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3250491 – Watermelon, Dixie Queen – 1 gm. Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   3250031 – Muskmelon, Hale’s Best Jumbo – 1 gm. Sampler    @  2.25 =  2.25

[1]   3030081 – Pole Bean, Kentucky Wonder – 1 oz. Sampler    @  2.05 =  2.05

[1]   3170011 – Eggplant, Black Beauty – 0.25 gm Sampler    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   4000141 – Mammoth Dill – 2 grams    @  1.55 =  1.55

[1]   4000301 – Sage – 1 gram    @  1.65 =  1.65

[1]   4000271 – Parsley, Moss Curled – 2 grams    @  1.55 =  1.55

——————————

——————————
$31.00  [– Sub-Total
————————————————————
$7.92   [– Continental U.S. Shipping & Handling Estimate

————————————————————
$38.92  [–## GRAND TOTAL

These seeds will be planted in addition to the other things already planted or growing in The Oasis. I have put out a call for more containers so that I may build more raised beds.

Here is The Oasis as of this afternoon:

The Oasis on February 22, 09